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I was really hoping for a happy ending....

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Body of Missing Girl Believed Found
The Associated Press
Feb 28 2002 8:19AM

EL CAJON, Calif. (AP) - Investigators believe the gruesome discovery of a nude, partially burned girl's body ends the hunt for Danielle van Dam, the 7-year-old who disappeared more than three weeks ago.
Volunteers who have tirelessly searched for the little girl found the body Wednesday near a small grove of trees, just off a winding, two-lane road east of San Diego.

``Tonight we believe that Danielle van Dam's body has been found,'' San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst said. ``Investigators believe the body was dropped at this site.''

The child was wearing a plastic necklace similar to one Danielle was seen wearing in thousands of flyers distributed after her disappearance. An earring matching the description of a pair she was wearing at the time of her disappearance also was found, Pfingst said.

``At this point we cannot positively confirm that it is Danielle,'' San Diego police Lt. Jim Collins said at the scene. ``However, we don't have any other young children missing in the county that have been reported. It's a high probability that it is her.''

At the crime scene, investigators closed off the roadway and set up search lights Wednesday night as they prepared to carefully examine the scene, which could yield a whole new set of clues.

``We are hopeful we will know what happened to this young girl,'' Pfingst said.

Initial reports indicated that the body had been burned but authorities declined late Wednesday to discuss the condition of the remains except to say that the body was partially decomposed. A positive identification could take several days.

Authorities have not yet determined the cause of death. No murder weapon was recovered from the scene, an unincorporated area about 25 miles east of San Diego.

Danielle was last seen on Feb. 1, when her father put her to bed in her family's north San Diego home. She was discovered missing the next morning. A methodical search for her involving thousands of volunteers stretched from Mexico to the desert east of San Diego.

A neighbor of the van Dam family, David Westerfield, 50, pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges of murder, kidnapping and possession of child pornography. He was being held without bond.

Westerfield spent the weekend of Danielle's disappearance traveling around San Diego County in his motor home, stopping in the desert east of the city.

Authorities said they found traces of Danielle's blood in Westerfield's motor home and on an article of his clothing.

Westerfield, a twice-divorced father of two grown children, has a 1996 drunken driving conviction but no violent criminal history.

He has said he was at the same bar where Danielle's mother, Brenda van Dam, was spending time with friends the night Danielle disappeared. Her husband was home with their daughter and two sons.

Police have searched Westerfield's home and examined three of his vehicles. In warrants, police said they were looking for child pornography, children's pajamas or clothing and a set of Mickey Mouse earrings. Police also sought any ``binding materials'' such as tape or rope, leather or rope collars.

I know, it was unlikely that they were going to find her safe and sound, but I was really praying this little girl was going to be found, scared but basically untouched.
post #2 of 25
another jackass our tax dollars will be paying for.... rrrrrrr... they should castrate him.
post #3 of 25
That is so sad I can't believe that there are people that can be so cruel and especially to such a young girl. I hope they find who did this and sentence him to death or life in prison.
post #4 of 25
This is so sad. I can't even imagine what the parents are feeling. Makes you want to lock your kids up in the house forever.
post #5 of 25
That poor family. My prayers are with them.
post #6 of 25
They featured this story lead-in on the Today show and one of the questions to the family representative was "How does the family feel knowing that the body they found was of Danielle?" Well what kind of a question is that?? Unless you are serial killer parents of the year, any parent would be devastated to find out their darling child met such a gruesome and untimely death!

Last night, I went to the video store and rented a slew of movies.One of them is called Ed Gien and is a true story about a murderer who makes Dahmer look tame! He lived in the late 50's and everyone in the town knew he was "off" but didn't do much about it. It was an intense and terrifying movie into the look of a psychotic killer.
post #7 of 25
Thread Starter 
Ed Gein was sick sick sick. Norman Bates from Psycho was loosely based on him.
post #8 of 25
I was hoping they would've found Danielle alive, and safe, but that didn't happen I feel sorry for the family.

Off topic: Is Dahmer dead, or is he in prison still? I remeber he was stabbed while in prison, but dont remember the outcome ....... All of those killers are lunatics.
post #9 of 25
he died, the inmates exacted their own type of justice for him
post #10 of 25
...and THAT is a fine example of Karma (the Dahmer thing) My heart breaks for the parents of this girl ..I don't know how I could go on if something happened to one of my children.
post #11 of 25
We saw the "breaking news" story last night as it unfolded. I just sat there and cried. My children are my whole world, my life, my breath. If something or someone ever hurt even a hair on their head they'd be paying the ultimate price.
I feel so horrible for the parents and the rest of the family. I cannot even begin to imagine what they must be going through right now. At least they found her though so they have closure and won't be always wondering what really happened to her. At least they will be able to bury her, etc and face what has happened. I hope that sonofa*itch who did this fries in hell.
post #12 of 25
There was a similar story in Arizona ....... Mikelle Biggs, a 7 year old disappeared about 4 -5 years ago, and they still haven't found her. I'm not sure if it made national headlines or not ...... It's so sad when a young child is snatched They were just beginning their life ..... So many disappear
post #13 of 25
I watched the 20/20 Downtown show last night, and as our daughter is the same age, I sat there and felt so awfull. I honestly don't know how the family held it together. I was so totally impressed with the amount of people who came to help search for her, people even flew in!! I was sickened to see that at one point it became about their lifestyle and less about thier missing daughter, luckily the family held it togehter and didn't let that overshadow the real issue. After watching I went in and checked the little one...
The news came on right after and the lead story was about finding the remains, although the likely hood of it being her is high, there's just this little part of me that is certain that it's not.. ya'll know what I mean??

post #14 of 25
Yeah, I had the thought of " oh, maybe it isn't her ", but then I thought even IF it was not her it was someone else's child. That is just as sad.
post #15 of 25
Sick sick sick sick. People so some horrible disgusting things and it's just not fair. What did that family do to deserve this? Moreover, what did that little girl do to deserve the horrible pain, suffereing, and fear she must have experienced?

Ugh, I say screw the death penalty on this one. Just hurry up and get him in prison, the inmates will take care of him.

I am so sad. I really didn't think it was likely that she was alive, what with finding her blood and all, but I still had hope. Poor family.
post #16 of 25
Thread Starter 
You know what is scarest to me...that this little girl was snatched out of her OWN bed, while her father was home! If you aren't safe in your own bed, in your own house...where are you safe?

That poor father is probably beating himself up
post #17 of 25
Or the mother too. She was out having fun, the husband put the kids to bed. When she came home, she said she made sure their doors were closed, but didn't open them as she didn't want to wake them up.

I feel for them both, as I'm sure they are both wondering, 'What if I had..." or "If only I had...". What a tragedy.
post #18 of 25
I was hoping for a happy ending too. At least the family knows what happened and they can now have closure and go on with their lives.

I just want to mention something one of my co-workers said about this yesterday, it seems weird. On the night that Danielle was abducted, her dad got up at about 1:00 a.m. to get a drink of water, and he noticed that a sliding glass door was open and an alarm was blinking. He shut the glass door, but never checked on his kids to make sure they were safe. I have no idea where my co-worker got this information.
post #19 of 25
I think that was in the news ....... he noticed the sliding glass door light was blinking
post #20 of 25
Sometimes I get so involved with everything else, that I completely miss out on seeing the news.

And now I will go to look for a nice quiet dark corner and hide there for awhile.
post #21 of 25
That was the weird part of the story........ why didn't the dad go check on his kids?
post #22 of 25
Thread Starter 
Autopsy Confirms Body Is Missing Girl
The Associated Press
Mar 1 2002 12:04PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) - For weeks Danielle van Dam's parents kept hoping as volunteers combed canyons and desert, looking for the 7-year-old who disappeared from her bedroom. The hopes and the hunt are over now: An autopsy has confirmed that a body found by a roadside was the missing girl's.
Police Chief David Bejarano informed Danielle's parents, Brenda and Damon van Dam, of the positive identification Thursday. The couple thanked volunteers at an office that had been used as a base for the search, then left quietly.

``There is not a more anxious feeling for parents than to not know where our children are,'' the couple said in a statement released late Thursday. ``Even though the final outcome is horrible, we could not have imagined the rest of our lives without this closure.''

The van Dams thanked police and the more than 2,500 volunteers who assisted in the search.

The autopsy made the identification Thursday through a comparison of the missing girl's dental records and X-rays taken from the body, San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst said. The cause of death could not immediately be determined - and may never be - because of the body's state of decomposition, he said.

A neighbor, David Westerfield, 50, was charged Tuesday with murder, kidnapping and possession of child pornography. He has pleaded innocent and is being held without bond.

Authorities said they found traces of Danielle's blood in Westerfield's motor home and on an article of his clothing. The self-employed engineer spent the weekend of Danielle's disappearance traveling around San Diego County in his motor home, stopping in the desert east of the city.

Westerfield has said he was at the same bar where Brenda van Dam was spending time with friends the night Danielle vanished. Her husband was home with their daughter and two sons.

Danielle disappeared after her father put her to bed Feb. 1 in her family's north San Diego home. She was discovered missing the next morning.

As the weeks went by, her parents made plea after plea for their daughter's safe return. A methodical search was organized, with hundreds of volunteers combing an area stretching from Mexico to the desert east of San Diego.

Nothing turned up for nearly a month. But on Wednesday afternoon, a hunch led volunteers to the area where Danielle's body was found.

Volunteers had first checked the site Saturday and found nothing. Ten volunteers returned after investigators decided the area needed to be checked again. Searchers found the body about 25 feet from the road under a cluster of oak trees across from a sand mine.

The remote road about 25 miles east of San Diego was one Westerfield might have taken the weekend Danielle disappeared, said Bill Garcia, a private detective who coordinated searches in the area.

``Someone who would try to evade or stay low-key would have picked that route,'' Garcia said.

The search for the missing girl had been coordinated in part on an elaborate Web site, where a memorial to Danielle was posted Thursday morning. A message on the site quoted singer Sarah McLachlan: ``You're in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort there.''

In their statement, the van Dams said they desperately miss their ``very special, beautiful, loving little girl'' and are finding comfort ``in knowing that she is now safe again and at peace.''
post #23 of 25
That is just so sad. That poor little girl!!!!!

And not that it matters, but I thought Dahmer killed himself in prison, not that he was killed by other inmates, but I could be and probably am, wrong here.

I heard something yesterday at work, about some woman who strangled and burned her infant child, and all she got was 10 years in prison. Not sure where this happened, but that is horrible!
post #24 of 25
Where I live, in Minnesota, there is a family whose son was abducted by a total stranger about 10 or 12 years ago when the son, his brother and a friend were outside on their bikes. There were no arrests, no body was ever found, there were no results from any of the leads the police followed, and the parents never heard from their son again, he would be in his twenties by now if he is alive. I have heard that the police still get reports that this person has been seen somewhere, but these are always proven false. This poor family has gone for many years without finding out what really happened and being able to have closure.
post #25 of 25
Oh that is so sad, Lorie, the not knowing must be the worst part.
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